Is technology fostering a “generational cocoon”?

Last March, I was involved in the planning of a musical event on our campus to mark the UN Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We had lined up some students to do the introductions to the day’s performances. A few minutes before showtime, I handed one of the volunteers the text on the background for the day he was to incorporate into his intro. He quickly reviewed it aloud and stopped at the word “apartheid”, stared at it for a moment, and asked, “How do I pronounce this word?” I told him and he dutifully practiced it a couple of times, as if it were his first encounter with the term.

I had a “How can this be?” moment but quickly wrote it off to a range of possible reasonable explanations: a learning disability, nerves, familiarity with the concept but just not the word in written form. He executed his duties smoothly and I applauded his commitment to the issues. Continue reading


What the student affairs professional learned about marketing

Age of engage cover

Perhaps I have succumbed to the dark side. At a recent trip to the local bookstore, I found myself lured toward the business section, that mysterious zone beyond the computer manuals. I ventured there thinking I might find something practical about using new media – aka Web 2.0, aka Social Media, aka the LiveWeb – to engage students in the life of the University. (Yes, I am aware of the irony of going to a bookstore to learn about the internet.) What I found was Denise Shiffman’s The Age of Engage: Reinventing Marketing for Today’s Connected, Collaborative, and Hyperinteractive Culture, a book that I have found immensely useful in rethinking how we communicate with students. Continue reading

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Towards a shared understanding of “assessment”

Assessment Reconsidered: Institutional Effectiveness for Student Success
By Richard P. Keeling, Andrew F. wall, Ric Underhile, Gwendolyn J. Dungy
Published by the International Center for Student Success and Institutional Accountability

Reviewed by Deanne Fisher, University of Toronto

This pithy little publication follows up where the influential Learning Reconsidered and Learning Reconsidered II left off — that is, now that we understand learning, how do we assess how and where it happens? The authors are careful to establish that Assessment Reconsidered is not a how-to manual. So, for those of you who are sold on the importance of assessment and looking for the step-by-step guide to implementing your plan, this book will not meet your needs. However, if you are looking for a thorough, yet succinct, explanation of the fundamentals of assessment in higher education that you can share with colleagues, faculty, and upper levels of your administration, Assessment Reconsidered is ideal. Continue reading

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2 Books about student experiences and expectations

Promoting Reasonable Expectations

Aligning Student and Institutional Views of the College Experience

By Miller, T., Bender, B., Schuh, J., et al.

Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA 2005

– reviewed by David Newman, University of Alberta

In higher education, a growing focus on the quality of the student experience is clearly evident in our institutions. It has been built more strongly into our institutional vision statements in recent years and is often used for purposes of recruitment, alumni support, and community support. However, what happens when the promises contained in such vision statements cannot be realized? How can we determine what types of promises are meaningful to our students? How do institutions balance the potentially contradictory needs that exist between students, external communities, and the institutions themselves? Continue reading

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Two engaging critiques of the state of higher education

These two books were reviewed last year (CACUSS 2007) but, I think, warrant re-posting here.

Ivory Tower Blues
A university system in crisis
By James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar
University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Buffalo, London: 2007

Our Underachieving Colleges
A candid look at how much students learn and why they should be learning more
By Derek Bok
Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ: 2006

– reviewed by Deanne Fisher, University of Toronto

These books — one Canadian, one American — offer student affairs practitioners a big picture view of what’s happening in undergraduate education broadly.

James Côté and Anton Allahar, two faculty members in the Department of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario, have been garnering a fair amount of attention for their scathing critique of Canada’s university system. Ivory Tower Blues is based largely on the authors’ 25-plus years (each) of teaching experience during which they say they have witnessed “hopes shattered with increasing frequency, in the daily grind of the university system and in the harsh reality of the job market afterwards.” Continue reading

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Greetings CACUSS readers!

At today’s Open Book session at CACUSS 2008, you suggested we continue the conversation about books (really just big ideas) online – especially since we had spent much of the session talking about books related to information technology and social networking. So, I’ll kick things off but the success of the blog will be in your hands. Please contribute!

Here Comes EverybodyMy most enthusiastic endorsement from the reading list was Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. I think the phenomena described in the book have profound implications for institutions and professions, including ours. Shirky argues that web 2.0 technology has put the power of organizing into the hands of ordinary individuals – no longer do they/we need institutions (like colleges and universities) to provide the infrastructure, stability, resources to bring people together. They can find each other, and accomplish things, quite easily in environments like this one. We experienced that today when we spontaneously made the decision to create this blog, rather than make a formal request to the CACUSS board to create an organizationally-supported discussion board. Talk about a teachable moment! Continue reading

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